5 ways to play guitar like Gary Moore

Gary Moore
(Image credit: Stuart Mostyn/Redferns)

Gary Moore took up guitar at the age of 10, moving from his native Belfast to Dublin at the age of 16 and becoming a professional player. While living in Dublin in the late 1960s, he caught all the latest bands live; John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Jimi Hendrix and Cream amongst others. However, Gary’s biggest influence was Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green who would become something of a mentor to him, later selling him his famed 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard. 

This now legendary instrument, which Gary would call ‘Greeny’, features on many early Mac tracks, much of Gary’s blues work and now resides with its latest owner, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett.

Gary was one of the fastest, most fiery rock players out there, but he was also versatile, turning his hand to jazz-rock in the 1970s with Colosseum II and eventually returning to his blues roots in the 90s. 

His playing still packed a punch though, and his high-volume, high gain soloing style remained largely unchanged. This month’s tab examples are based on Gary’s later blues recordings, with a couple paying tribute to his melodic playing on ballads like Still Got The Blues and Parisienne Walkways.

You’ll want to dial in a reasonably high-gain distortion tone to play the examples this month, and preferably use a humbucker-equipped guitar.

Click in top right of tab to enlarge

1. On fire 

(Image credit: Future)

Starting with a slide down the sixth string is a great statement of intent that really sets the stage for the fiery licks that follow. The repeated bends make an attention grabbing opening phrase, before moving on to pentatonic phrasing in bars 3 and 4. Vibrato should be moderately fast and wide.

2. You want Moore? 

(Image credit: Future)

Another take over the same backing music, this example showcases some wide, high-register string bends. 

This is a style that Gary really excelled at and our lick provides a hint of how he played some of those rapid fire licks in tracks such as Walking By Myself using a mixture of picked notes with hammer-ons and pull-offs.

3. Triplets and pentatonics

(Image credit: Future)

This pentatonic lick makes extensive use of triplets (great for blues and swinging blues-rock), emphasised further with palm muting in the last two bars. 

Gary would often use this technique to give definition to the lower strings – very helpful with a high-gain tone. Simply rest your pick hand on the strings where they meet your guitar’s bridge

4. Ballad blues 

(Image credit: Future)

Switching to the neck pickup and a ballad feel, this example shows how ‘neat’ Gary’s playing could be. Detail is everything here – pay attention to when the vibrato begins on a held note (if there is any at all) and the contrasting staccato notes at the end of phrases. 

You may want to reduce your guitar’s volume a shade to clean up the tone too. 

5. Still got 'em

(Image credit: Future)

Back to the bridge pickup and a roaring high-gain tone, this example makes a feature of handling and string noise. Part of the reason for this was Gary avoiding the microphonic feedback that can occur when using vintage pickups for high-gain tones at stage volume. 

Practise the bends carefully, focusing on hitting the pitch accurately.

Backing track audio 

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